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Anita Silverman Hirsch Z"l

Israel on Campus: Defending Our Universities

I feel extremely privileged to have been asked to filmed this international conference taking place in Montreal, Quebec on Sunday, 23 August, 2009. It is sponsored by the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

Please read an excerpt taken from CIJR’s website:

‘CIJR is a respected independent pro-Israel research center, now in its twenty-first year. We group academics from across Canada, the U.S. and Israel, who together work to bring objective analysis of Israel- and Middle East-related issues quickly and directly to the public, Jewish and non-Jewish. We publish several well-respected journals and magazines, and are also noted for our work with students, on and off campus.

The goal of the August 23rd International Conference is two-fold:
1. to bring a powerful analytic focus to bear on the mounting threat to academic freedom and free inquiry represented by the growth of anti-Semitism, masquerading as anti-Zionism and anti-Israelism, on our campuses, and
2. to develop, on the basis of a clear set of informing principles, a “Campus Defense Council” tasked with an ongoing, coordinated, and persistent international campaign to “take back the campus”.

The Conference’s operating assumption is that defending Israel on campus is not only intrinsically important, to defend Jewish, and to reach non-Jewish, students, but is also crucial to preserving the academic freedom and critical inquiry which underlie our universities as crucial Western institutions, key to preserving the free and open societies of which they are a part.

The Conference is placed chronologically to inaugurate the 2009-10 academic year, and will issue in the creation of a working committee, under CIJR aegis, to translate its insights and principles into a Campus Defense Council. We have to date been primarily reactive insofar as mounting campus anti-Semitism is concerned; the ongoing Council will be proactive, taking the initiative through concrete, coordinated, and sustained action. Representatives of major Jewish and pro-Israel organizations and groups are therefore being invited to participate, and to become constituent members of the Campus Defense Council.

The Israel on Campus: Defending Our Universities Conference will consist in a morning panel, a major luncheon address, and an afternoon panel, with an evening working dinner featuring one or two keynote addresses by outstanding international figures. The morning session will analyze the nature of the problems facing “Israel on Campus”; the afternoon group will outline strategies for “Defending Our Universities”.

Each panel (with three speakers and a chairman), will be allotted two hours, including the chairman’s initial comments, three twenty-minute papers [summarizing full papers tabled and distributed at the Conference], an audience Q. & A. period, and brief “Replies” by panel members and the panel Chairman’s summation. (Again, panel presentations are condensed versions of formal papers circulated at the Conference and to be published in CIJR’s internationally-distributed quarterly ISRAFAX journal and carried as well in our biweekly Israzine web magazine).

While we do not want to prejudge the specific subjects and issues participants may wish to address, we are, again, suggesting that the morning panel address the current situation, its causes and manifestations, while the afternoon group focus on strategies for dealing with the situation.’


Genocide: "Once I have contempt for you, I can do anything to you and not feel shame or compassion."

This week, I had the good fortune of meeting Nathalie Sirois, Founder and Director of l’Institut canadien pour l'éducation sur les genocides (ICESG). I was so impressed with Nathalie’s work that The Shalom Foundation for Healing in Community (SFHC) has become one of the sponsors for next week’s ‘Mieux connaître pour mieux être l’humanité’ 2009 Training Conference which will be held in Ottawa, Ontario. I urge you to check out ICESG’s web site and witness first-hand Nathalie’s exceptional work on teaching about genocide to school children!

Since I will be videotaping several of the training workshops, I explored the concept of genocide from the vantage point of contemporary scholars.

Did you know that the Armenian genocide is the blueprint for what the Nazis later accomplished in Germany? But before that, the Belgians in the Congo affected a veritable genocide largely undocumented during their colonial rule there. (I watched a BBC documentary about this on Yom Hashoah while I was in Israel this last spring.)

And what about Barbara Colorosa? Most of us know her for her books on educating children but did you know that this mother, teacher and former nun was asked to speak at a university in Rwanda on bullying ("Extraordinary Evil: A Short History of Genocide" is her latest book).

Colorosa explains that "Once I have contempt for you, I can do anything to you and not feel shame or compassion."

She further explains that there are three actors in any genocide: the ringleaders (the organizers, bullies, and active participants), the targets, and the bystanders.

Among the bystanders there are the henchmen, the active supporters, the passive supporters, people who are afraid to step in, and people who actually do step in to defend and oppose.

Interestingly, the people who actually do step in are often outsiders. Colorosa shares a story about an elderly Rwandan woman who was an outsider (she had never converted to the dominant religion of Christianity) who saved Tutsi babies who were brought to her by their mothers. She was able to not go along with the ideology that demonized even Tutsi babies. A perpetrator said to her "Is that a Tutsi baby?" and she said "No, that's a baby and I am a mother."

There are two threads here:

One, is the planning and execution of genocide by governments and those in authority.

Two, is the participation of individuals and citizens. In the context of the involvement of citizens, I found it very interesting to hear a CBC-1 report from the current about a book comparing the witch burnings of the 16th century and in Salem to the present day Rwanda situation. This speaks about how citizens can be, through fear, manipulated to believe very strange things, a kind of group hypnosis.

What are your thoughts on this very complex and difficult subject?